What am I Doing Wrong?

One of the Most Common Questions Asked

I recently received the following question from a reader:

Hello Michael,

I think I am considered a fair pool player at our Community Center, but would be a better player if I did not so often “freeze” on the Eight Ball shot. I will run 3, 4 even 6 balls then miss a number of easy shots on the Eight Ball. Any suggestions?

– Jerry

Yes. Most likely, you are telling yourself to miss the shot.

The fact is, we know how to shoot.  Most of the time, you can make the ball. Like driving a car, you can usually do everything you need to do without even thinking about it – and believe it or not, that is the key to playing well!

Our subconscious minds are not capable of understanding negative thoughts. It is perception oriented, not verbally oriented. So, when I tell you not to think of the color red, that is the first thing you do!  Your subconscious mind does not understand the concept of “don’t.”

How many times have you said to yourself, just before a shot: “Ok, whatever you do, don’t overcut this ball,” only to take the shot and overcut it?  It has happened to me many times, and I am sure it’s happened to you as well.  Now, think about how many times you have shot a ball into the pocket, and all you were really focused on was cue ball position.  Making the ball is a foregone conclusion; you just want the cue ball to get to the perfect spot to make your next shot.  Most of the time, the object ball goes in, right?

That’s because your subconscious mind and your muscles already know what to do.  Sometimes, you’ll be down on your shot, and something nags at you, telling you the shot isn’t going to go in.  You ignore it, shoot the shot, and you miss.  How often have you heard someone say “I knew it was going to miss before I even shot it!” That was the subconscious mind trying to get your attention. Learn to hear it, and pay attention. If it’s telling you something’s wrong, stand up, reset yourself, and get back down on the shot. Don’t shoot the ball until it feels right.

So, Jerry, why are you missing the 8-ball?  Because you are telling yourself to miss the 8-ball!  Most likely, you are thinking to yourself, “I always miss this, and I’m probably going to miss this one too.  Please, don’t miss it!”  Your subconscious mind listens, strips away the negative “don’t,” and it receives the message: “Miss this shot!”  Now, you get down on the shot, take a couple of practice strokes, and listen for that inner voice.  Oh, good, it’s not giving you warning bells, awesome!

You shoot, and promptly miss!  There were no warning bells in your head, because your subconscious mind was told to miss, and it knew you were on track to miss.

When we are running a table, and getting to the last ball we have to make to win, it’s very difficult to stop listening to that voice that tells us “Don’t screw this up now.”  If you can manage to get into the zone, and just make balls until you have nothing left to shoot at, then your ego won’t get in the way.

This is not an easy lesson to learn; I’m still struggling with this myself.  When you are having this problem consistently, it makes it even harder to get out of it. Figure out a way to distract yourself, so you don’t have time to doubt your ability to make that final 8-ball.  If you find that your conscious mind is trying to interfere, get up.  Go take a sip of your beverage, chalk your tip, get down on the shot, and make it.

After your match, I suggest that you set up the shot you missed, and practice it until you make it ten times in a row.  You need to put a successful shot into your memory bank, so that your brain has a reference for the future.  Then, next time you are faced with that final 8-ball shot, picture it going in the center of the pocket.  Get down on the shot, and listen to your inner voice.  It will tell you when you’re ready to pull the trigger.


If you would like to share some of your success stories (or even the failures), or have suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop me a line at pool@billiardsprofessor.com.

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